Our travel to Vietnam was an experience as in Kuala Lumpur, we left luxury Air Mauritius to get on the low cost carrier “Air Asia” to Ho-Chi-Min City (HCMC/Saigon). The experience is especially linked to the low cost carrier terminal at Kuala Lumpur airport. Imagine visiting an Asian market and transfer this to an airport. LCCT is a huge terminal hall with about 80 check-in desks, working day & night only for Air Asia. We felt like little aunts, in melting pot of different cultures. What seems to be a great mess in the beginning turns out to work. Airplanes were in time and pretty modern.
So far for the low cost – this is only true up to check-in…. with our nice luggage of 100 kg: they let us pay overweight fees for every kg above 15kg per person!
We arrived in time in Saigon and directly found our Taxi driver to get on the road to Mui Ne. Mui Ne is near the city of Phan Thiet – about 220 km east of Saigon. Driving there is amazing: Hundreds or thousands of motorcycles surrounded us on our way through Saigon rush hour. After a long drive of 5 hours we finally got to our destination. Mr. Taxi driver respected the laws pretty close and only drove 50 km/h – probably because he was answering 3 different mobile phones while driving.
Accommodation and Location
And again – we booked the perfect accommodation in Mui Ne. After some troubles getting a booking in Vietnam for X-mas, we were really happy to find the very affordable local hotel Hiep Hoa. After some e-mail without response by the hotel, a phone call in Vietnamese-English and finally a booking confirmation, we were really surprised that this arrangement worked out! And it was perfect. We lived for a month in a beach front bungalow and the only noise we heard while sleeping was the shore break. The accommodation is basic & clean and the family that holds the place very helpful.
Mui Ne is an old fisher town which was overtaken by tourism about 10 years ago. It’s a long strip of hotels & restaurants on just one road, behind the strip it’s only sand dunes.
There are a lot of windsurfing and kitesurfing tourists beside the normal resort tourists. Even if inflation is high and prizes doubled over the last year, coming from Switzerland we were really surprised by the cheap prices. So, actually we would have been able to save a little bit on our budget. But what we saved, we directly invested into new Twin Tip boards, as we broke them in choppy Mui Ne water.
At Hiep Hoa we met a lot of nice people from all over the world. A lot of long stay travellers, some of them we will for sure meet again on our journey.
A lot of people warned us from dirty Mui Ne water… and it’s true. Swimming there is not really a pleasure as you can bump into dead animals sometimes. After being spoiled by the colours of the Indian Ocean this was quite a difference.
Kiting conditions where pretty good for the first week. We had to get used again to have plenty of people on the water, not being on our own ;-). After the first week, the wind got really gusty. So conditions are not for beginners: Huge shore break, choppy water & gusty wind. We could improve our jumping skills in a bit harder conditions. This ended as we already mentioned with 2 broken boards… So for conditions like this, Andy has to change his constructing style from very light to very resistant.
In the last week visited a Spot about 120 km up north. A great reef with nice waves on the outside, a perfect shore break and a completely flat water area on the inside. We really recommend to people staying in Mui Ne to do the trip. Thanks to Antony & Scott we had a great time there!
Country & People
Or shall we rather speak about country and tut tut??
So first of all Vietnam is very noisy. We felt that every motorbike & car starts its engine with a horning and keeps it on all the way to the destination. So we really had to get used to it, especially during our visit to Saigon.
Vietnam people are very friendly and quick. After mostly travelling to Caribbean or South American countries before, we realized quickly how business oriented the Vietnamese are. Mostly it’s family business and most places are owned and managed by local people. In Mui Ne there are plenty of shops, spa’s, restaurants & hotels and you get very good service. They really try hard to satisfy their customers and are good selling people (never forget about “see you tomorrow”!)
Isa often went to a massage place and her preferred therapist was learning English and Russian to become a receptionist at a hotel.
The trouble we had a little with the local people is that you can’t read behind their smile. It’s difficult to understand what people really feel & think.
What we found terrible was how big the pollution in Vietnam is. It’s not just the smog in the cities; it’s just the behaviour with rubbish. Everything is thrown on the road or in the see. When we drove north, outside the tourist area it get’s even worse. There’s dirt and rubbish everywhere. The see is fool of plastic bags and other stuff, there are not even rubbish bins around, and everything goes on the floor, even in restaurants.
A short glance at Saigon we took already on our arrival as we headed through the motorbike rush hour on our way east. Before leaving Vietnam we spent a few days in Saigon. It’s an impressive, very loud city. Especially all the motorbike & car horns can get a little heavy…. But I think even in times that all the motorbike people where on bicycles it was already very noisy.
To calm down from the big city noise we booked in a very nice hotel, “The Continental” which used to be the favourite hotel of Graham Green. A perfect choice, we enjoyed a beautiful room with view to the Opera House.
The three days we spent there where packed with sightseeing all around Saigon. War Museum, Zoo, Saigon River, Post Office, Bentang Market, Cholon etc. … All together lots of things to see, but for sightseeing the northern cities are definitely more recommended.
After Saigon, time to hit the road again… or better to fly on. After Asia, we were looking forward to get back to “eastern” civilisation in Australia.